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Holy inappropriate behaviour, Rev

By Lindy McDowell

The randy vicar is a stalwart of tabloid headline heaven.

This week we have the latest such sinner to snigger about. A married vicar revealed to have had an affair with his parishioner, details of lurid texts "full of double entendres about underwear", and claims of sex in an alleyway, which the Rev pedantically disputes.

"It was," he maintains, "in an enclosed courtyard and more of a fumble." Whatever.

Hardly wholly, or indeed holy, appropriate behaviour for a man of the cloth.

The affair between Rev Stephen Vincent and a woman he was supposed to be mentoring as part of a work shadowing scheme came to light after she made complaints against him.

Church of England vicar Mr Vincent, who was ordained in 2012, has since been removed from his position on the grounds that his fling was "incompatible with his continued ministry in the Church".

As the relationship gathered steam, up to 80 texts a day passed between his reverence and the woman, known for legal reasons, as X. She sent him a selfie of herself in her underwear. There was discussion about the virtues of stockings and suspenders. Thou shalt not text adultery...

Mr Vincent has been left without a home (the house went with the job) and now claims unemployment benefit, but he is not entirely bereft, for standing by him is his wronged wife Erin, who like Rev Vincent himself comes originally from Northern Ireland.

"I can see how much he regrets it and I don't think he needs punishing further," Mrs Vincent says simply. The couple have three young children. She talks about staying strong for their sakes.

To err is human, to forgive divine. But is she foolish, too gracious by half in her Christian charity. Who's to say?

What we do know is how hellish these last few months must have been for this woman, the innocent party, propelled through no fault of her own into marital turmoil, household upheaval and now the national media spotlight where her husband's cringey, "lurid" texts have been made public for all to ogle.

In fairness, texts sent during any fling, adulterous or otherwise, would tend to err on the lurid side. No surprises there, really. But this was a newly ordained priest. What was he thinking? He betrayed his calling. His parishioners. Above all his poor wife.

Does he deserve her forgiveness? He is certainly paying for his sins. But not as much, it would be safe to say, as the woman who has chosen to stand by him.

Some might call her a fool. Erin Vincent doesn't come across as one. Rather she appears to be an immensely strong character who truly has taken to heart her for-better-or-worse vows.

By contrast, her husband has been an utter, selfish, heartless eejit, but he has paid a very public price for what he calls his huge, stupid mistake. And presumably he has learnt a hard lesson from an unsavoury escapade that has cost his young family so dear.

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